By Joe McGasko
When Dorene Cartwright first considered returning to school after many years, she wasn’t confident of success.
“I didn’t think I could do it. I was very unsure of myself,” she remembered.
Despite her trepidation, Cartwright – married and a mother of three children – soon discovered that taking baby steps worked at University College at Adelphi University just as it had worked for motherhood.
“What I did was take one class,” she said. “And I was able to do that! Then I took on two classes. I was able to do that, so I took three classes…” Soon, Cartwright was a fixture on the Adelphi campus, taking classes all year round. She is now less than a year away from completing her graduate degree in teaching.
The process began simply enough.
“I’d gotten married, had my children, but always felt that something was missing,” she said. “If I spoke to people who had gone to school, I always felt like ‘I wish I had that.’ That’s why I went back, and once I started, I didn’t stop.”
The decision went against how Cartwright had been raised. She, like most of her friends, had decided not to go to college after graduating from high school.
“My teachers didn’t really inspire me to go to college, and my parents didn’t push me,” she said. “They didn’t go to college and didn’t think it was necessary. They thought I should just get married.”
Cartwright did get married, but she never lost interest in further education. While raising her kids and helping her husband with his contracting business, she got a job as a teacher’s assistant. Her joy in being a T.A. led directly to her decision to return to school in 2008.
“That’s when I decided ‘This is what I want to do,’” she recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I want to go back and teach’.”
Her day job in the Elmont School District made joining Adelphi’s Scholar Teaching Education Program (STEP) curriculum impossible, so Cartwright enrolled in University College for night and weekend classes.
“It actually worked out better because UC is more accelerated, so I was able to go through my undergrad courses a bit quicker in order to go on to the master’s,” she said. “Everyone at UC is very helpful and it worked out really well.”
As Cartwright pursued her M.A. in Childhood Education, she saw some familiar faces around the Adelphi campus. Her son William finished his B.A. in liberal arts at Adelphi this past December, and her daughter Kathryn is currently enrolled in STEP, also en route to a master’s in education. Cartwright and her daughter even took a couple of classes together.
“They would often come across me on campus,” she laughed.
When she finishes her student teaching next August, Cartwright can certainly look back with pride on what she has accomplished, at home and at school.
“Everyone’s like, ‘It’s gone so fast!’ I’m like, ‘No, it hasn’t!’ But my friends, colleagues, and family have kept me going. It’s been challenging, but so rewarding.”